The Rector of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Commodore Emmanuel Effedua (rtd) spoke to journalists on efforts to reposition the institution to effectively provide the needed manpower for Nigeria’s maritime sector. Eromosele Abiodun presents the experts:
What are the efforts you are taking to build an internationally competitive content for the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) as emphasised by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi recently?
We were waiting to commission these facilities because without commissioning them, we cannot deploy them to use. If you do not have classrooms where will you put the equipment when you bring them in? If you don’t have a library, where will you put the books when you bring them in? So, that’s what we have done. If the minister did not intervene when he did, the Academy would have collapsed one year plus ago, totally. All the projects he saw today had been finished months ago. We have also been in contact with our foreign partners. The International Maritime Organisation(IMO) has been here, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research(UNITAR) has been here and so many other stakeholders. Exxon Mobile was here two weeks ago. Our plans for this year 2019/2020 will no longer be infrastructure. It will be training, training, training.
We understand that a delegation from India is coming here as well?
They are coming to take measurements of the stimulation hall to find out how to position the equipment we are trying to procure. We also have plans to send our people, as soon as we finish signing the MOU with them and probably getting the Letter of Credit from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Yes, our people will be sent to India for training at the factory where they produce the simulators. They will train on how to use the simulators and some other groups who are engineers, those electronic experts will also train on how to maintain them. In about three or four months, the equipment is back in Nigeria complete and as it is coming, our own boys too are ready made. We don’t need to start learning again and we don’t want foreigners come and help us man our equipment, our boys would have become trained and well equipped.
What is specialisation of the 15 lecturers recently employed by your Academy?
A total of 15 teaching staff were employed. They are experts on navigation, seamanship, radar plotting and the use of navigational equipment. Most of them are seamen and some of them are marine engineers too. They are just part of the first wave. We are even searching far and wide. Master Mariners were supposed to be with us this week but I asked them to shelve it to next week. Part of their coming is to see how they can support by helping us source for experts because these people are those that you can pick off the shelf. You have to poach them. I am expecting four lecturers to join us this week at the School of Maritime Transport. We have all these plans, everything is in the works.
How are you tackling the problem of Sea Time Training which has plagued the institution for a while now?
I am very passionate about that. The problem has been bad planning. People had not been planning and the number of people that had been taken in as cadets has been very much. The population was enormous, it was outrageous. We have a backlog already in the field and you are admitting more. So, before I came, we used to admit 1,800 cadets, in some classrooms you found about 100 people, it is madness but as soon as I came after consulting the IMO, they said maximum 30 per class and we stuck to that. And so far, we have about 259 cadets now as against the 1,800 they used to have before. Those rooms we visited in the hostels used to have about 18 cadets per room but now we have only 3-4 cadets and we are reducing to two. The contract to renovate and remodel those hotels is ongoing. So, come December, I am sure it will be a different place.
Recently there was an audit of the academy, what was it about?
IMO has come, UNITAR has come, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) came, also many other stakeholders. The audit we invited them for is on restructuring and repositioning the school. They have come and pointed a direction. We are implementing now. When we are ready, we will call for another audit.
How ready are you to tackle the challenge of competition from other maritime institutions in the country?
We already have our plans and the management is capable but the plans we have cannot manifest immediately. Like what you are seeing here, I wish you had been here 12 months ago, you will think you are in a different place entirely. We have all the plans to import the equipment but simulators are not like cars that you buy off the shelf. You must discuss what you want it to do and they will sit down to plan it. This talk has been on for almost six months now. It will take some time. A ship or a specialised equipment like that cannot be bought off the shelf. So, come December, let us see who our challengers will be.
How have you dealt with hostility from your host community? What Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are you involved in?
The academy belongs to Nigeria. Those from Anambra, Lagos, Borno, they all have a stake here. It is not Maritime Academy, Akwa Ibom State, it is Maritime Academy of Nigeria. The host community was quite hostile but I called them one after the other and they couldn’t say what their annoyance is. They could not say anything because they were sponsored, some of them even confessed to that. They were blackmailing people and holding them to hostage. Ordinarily, this event of today, you would have given them some money before they let you pass. But I have dared them because it becomes criminality and anything you see you take. But we are doing our best. The host communities have two secondary schools there- Mary Annie and Methodist Boys High School. Just three weeks back, we set up ICT centres for both schools. We have also gotten in touch with a consultant who will bring lecturers for them for one year- internet one year. They can use that place for their JAMB exams and nobody has ever done that for them. I bought 100 JAMB forms for their children. We have graded four roads for them, even chairs and desks, we have donated 100 to each school. There are more that we shall refurbish and donate because some of these children are not sitting on chairs. Some of them come from their homes with their own chairs. Their hospital- their pregnant women when they go for surgery, they ask them to include 50 litres of diesel if not, you are on your own. When I heard that, I said no. My CSR team met, now we supply them diesel. We give them diesel on weekly basis to make sure that the children, the women and even men of the community do not have problems when they go to the hospital. You do not have to come with your generator to the hospital. The era of sharing money is over. We will not share money with anybody and any money we spend should impact directly on the end users .
What efforts are you making to upgrade from HND awards to BSc?
Let me ask you a question. Do you just bring NUC to say okay that compound should become a university? They will come for inspection. They will tell you okay, get this right, get this right. If we already have HND, why won’t we get the B.Sc running. So, you must keep certain things on the ground. Like all those quality assurance companies like Lloyds, Veritas, all of them, when you invite them here and you have not laid your bed well, what do you want them to tell you? That’s why we are working super-fast. The infrastructure here, they can’t talk about that anymore, nobody can challenge us on that. Equipping the Academy is our next plan and it is already in the works. Cadets no longer use pamphlets, they have books bought for them and the books are take always. When you graduate, go with them. For the sea time, we have arranged on how to see them go on-board. All these things are what these auditors will check. Do you have simulators; do you have qualified lecturers? If you know what they will ask you, get them done fast. I have just done one year plus. The decay you are meeting is about 39years old. And the development the Academy has witnessed in one year plus is more than the whole 39 gathered There were projects that were abandoned for 19 years, 20 years like the swimming pool but now, it is almost ready. So, we just take it one step at a time. We can’t attack everything at the same time but for this year, it is training, training, training and equipment. I am sure that if you come back here in another six months, you will shall these in place.